From experience, I can tell you that the process of building products is expensive and complex. A common mistake product teams still make is starting by thinking about the actual product rather than discovering why and for who they are building this product.

A quote from Silicon Valley product group guru Marty Cagan says, "First, you need to discover whether real users out there want this product… Second, you need to discover a product solution to this problem that is usable, useful, and feasible."

As a product manager, this resonated with me and forced me to ask: Is my team building products or creating solutions? Let's explore the difference between the two.

Our team prioritizes user research early on in the process

The four main differences

From my experience, I've found that there are four main differences between teams that build products and teams that create solutions:

  1. Teams that build products think about what they can build, whereas teams that create solutions think about what they should build. There is a big difference between these two things. The former is driven by feasibility and what the team sees as possible, while the latter considers the feasibility and whether it will solve the user's problem.
  2. Teams that build products focus on features, whereas teams that create solutions focus on outcomes. This one is self-explanatory - features are what you build, while outcomes are what you achieve. Simply put, focusing on results means ensuring that whatever you make will help achieve the business goals.
  3. Teams that build products work in silos, whereas teams that create solutions work in cross-functional teams. To be successful, product development needs to be a collaborative effort between different departments, such as design, engineering, marketing, and so on. Working in cross-functional teams ensures everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goal.
  4. Teams that build products rely on assumptions, whereas teams that create solutions rely on data. Assumptions are dangerous because they can lead you down the wrong path entirely. Relying on data means making decisions based on evidence instead of just guessing - which gives you a much better chance of success.

Building products is an expensive and complex process - there's no doubt about that. But it's even more complex and costly if you're not building the right thing. That's why it's essential to ensure you're thinking about why you're building something and who it's for - otherwise, you might waste time and money on something nobody wants or needs. So ask yourself - is your team building products or creating solutions? The answer could make all the difference in your success (or failure).

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